There are multiple benefits of infant massage, and indeed many different cultures have practiced it for centuries. Infant massage can be adapted for children of all ages, but since touch is one of the most developed of the five senses at birth, massaging your newborn has a host of developmental benefits. These include easing upset stomachs, digestion and teething pains, to boosting muscle development and serotonin levels. Not only this, but massaging your baby is relaxing for both parent and baby, helps with bonding and can help your baby sleep deeper and longer.
You can learn infant massage from an Educator in a small group session, or simply follow some general guidelines.
Start by making infant massage a part of your daily routine at a certain time each day. Make sure it’s a time when you aren’t in any rush, and your baby isn’t too hungry or too full. Using massage oil isn’t essential, but a dab of edible, unscented oil can be even more soothing and beneficial. Some good oils include coconut, canola, grape seed, apricot, avocado or safflower oil, but you should ensure that any oils you use have been cold-pressed and not heat-treated. For this reason, regular supermarket oils should be avoided unless you have thoroughly checked that they are suitable for use on your baby’s skin.* You should always avoid nut oils - as there’s too much risk of potential allergies – and baby oils, which can block the pores. We also recommend that you avoid olive oil**, as the smell can be too strong and the molecules tend to be too large for a baby’s pores. Be certain that whichever oil you use is easily absorbed and non-allergenic.
You should make sure that the room you’re in is warm and comfortable so your baby doesn’t get cold. You should only massage your baby when it’s lying on the floor, and be sure to lay down a towel to avoid any oil stains. The reason for this is that it could be dangerous to have your baby on a high surface such as a changing table or a bed when your hands are covered in oil and unable to grip your baby if it was to fall off.***
You should pay close attention to your baby’s cues – they’ll let you know if they don’t want to be massaged, and you can save it for another time. Likewise, they may have had enough after just a short rubdown of their arms or legs.
Avoid applying too much pressure – it can be easily overpowering for infants, so remember to take it easy. If you want your baby to relax before bedtime or a nap, massage away from the heart to relax them. Conversely, stroking towards the heart (e.g. from wrist to shoulder) is best for when your baby will be alert and active. You can massage your baby’s legs, feet, head or face**** – all should be soothing and relaxing for them. Paediatric Massage Consultant Catherine Kerle also recommended that you avoid massaging your baby’s chest unless you have had training, as this is not always soothing for them.
*Cold-pressed oils only should be used.
**Olive oil was previously recommended as an option to use for baby oil, however we have recently discovered that it is not.
***Originally we recommended that the bed or the changing table would be suitable to massage your baby on, however an expert recently told us that it is dangerous to massage your baby on a surface other than the floor as they could roll off and slip through your hands if they are covered in oil.
****Prior to this amendment ‘chest’ was included in the list of areas that could be massaged.
If you have any further questions regarding baby massage, please contact our expert consultant:
Catherine Kerle Infant Massage Instructor | Paediatric Massage Consultant | Remedial Therapist
About: As a Certified Infant Massage Instructor and Paediatric Massage Consultant with 11 years of Remedial Massage experience, and being a Mum of a toddle, Catherine is deeply passionate about empowering parents to have confidence massaging their babies and to enjoy the benefits of ‘massage time’.
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